Today I am so excited to welcome Prutha, a queer south asian book blogger, who is also a dear friend!! In today’s post Prutha talks about ‘5 queer YA contemporary novels to read during and beyond Pride Month’.
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Prutha Discusses ‘5 queer YA contemporary novels to read during and beyond Pride Month’
Hello everyone. I’m Prutha from Moonchild Lexicons! A huge thank you to Kashvi for having me over at the wonderful Misty Realms! Today I’m going to recommend five of my favourite queer YA contemporary novels, which you should add to your TBR for and beyond Pride Month. All of these books have been written by queer authors and have diverse representation, so be sure to show the authors some love!
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
“What I want more than anything else in the world is to feel like being myself isn’t something that should be hidden and a secret.”
The Henna Wars was one of the first Sapphic novels I’d ever read, and probably the first with Sapphic and Desi representation. At a time when I was struggling to accept myself for who I was, Nishat was my greatest comfort.
Although The Henna Wars has an irresistible f/f romance, its greatest strength lies in how realistically all the characters and their dynamics are written. Not only do we get to see Nishat grow amongst all the challenges thrown at her, whether they be her own parents not treating her the same after she comes out to them, or the evident cultural appropriation by the girl she has blossoming feelings for, but also the heart-warming sisterly love between Nishat and Priti.
Another aspect that really solidified my love for Henna Wars were the desi references thrown in without any explanation and the luscious descriptions of food.
Overall, The Henna Wars is a wonderful blend of pure Sapphic fluff and an exploration of important issues like homophobia, racism, and cultural appropriation.
Perfect for: readers who like comforting queer stories with a f/f competitors-to-lovers story and complex familial dynamics.
TWs: Homophobia, cultural appropriation, racism, outing of one character, bullying (all challenged)
Representation: Bengali Muslim lesbian MC, Brazilian-Irish (Afro-Latinx) bisexual LI, side Bengali characters, side Korean character.
Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
“Your sexuality—and how you identify—is nobody else’s business. You can change your mind, or not change your mind. Those labels exist for you, and not so that everyone else can try to force you into a box. Especially if that box is their close-minded idea of fucking normal.”
Summer Bird Blue has a special place in my heart because, just like every other Akemi Dawn Bowman book, it does not refrain from absolutely crushing readers with nothing but mere words.
Through this book, we watch Rumi navigate the loss of her sister, living in a world that is completely different from what it was earlier and exploring her sexuality. I loved how Rumi, although realising that she falls somewhere on the AroAce spectrum, clearly voices her thoughts of being comfortable within one’s own skin and thoughts, and not confining oneself into a specific box.
Summer Bird Blue had undoubtedly the best questioning rep I’ve seen so far. There was a realistic approach towards Rumi finding her identity. Whether it was a kiss that she did not enjoy or a feeling she could not grow inside her—we get to see her all throughout this very confusing journey.
Overall, Summer Bird Blue is a bittersweet book about grief, family, friendship, and identity that will not only pierce a hole through your heart but also mend it back.
Perfect for: readers who are looking for solace in books that tackle mental health and have brilliant AroAce rep.
TWs: Loss of a sibling, grief, depression, drowning, internalised Aphobia, panic attacks.
Representation: Multi-racial AroAce MC, Hawaiian, Japanese, Black and Korean (mostly biracial) SCs
Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa
“It only takes one person to live their truth before more people start realizing they can too.”
I think I can safely say that Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is the standard for gay books.
This book has all the ingredients to craft the perfect YA novel. A m/m romance with brilliant chemistry between the characters, Julián and Mat? Check. A supportive and caring friend group where everyone stands out as their own person? Check. Flowy, light-hearted, and humorous prose? Check.
Apart from the aforementioned factors that made this book a favourite, I really appreciated how Julián’s Latinx identity and how it intersected with his queerness was an integral part of the story. Also, the author did a great job at integrating Spanish words (and slang!) into the story, which made me even more immersed in the setting.
Overall, Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun, at its core, is an uplifting tale about queer Latinx joy, which does not refrain from tackling heavy topics.
Perfect for: readers who are looking for a queer rom-con starring characters of colour and a heart-warming found family
TWs: Physical parental abuse, anti-gay prejudice, anti-gay slurs, bullying, parental abandonment, death of parent (mentioned)
Representation: Mexican-American gay MC, Vietnamese-American gay li, gay, lesbian, bi & pan SCs, Black SC
Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie
“Being queer is hard enough. Don’t lock yourself out of all of this just because you’re scared you won’t fit in the keyhole, without even trying.”
Ophelia After All is a huge warm hug that you need every once in a while. It reassures you that everything is going to be alright at the times you most require it.
Perhaps the reason why I adore Ophelia After All is how real everything felt whilst reading it. Not only does it authentically portray Ophelia’s experience of coming to terms with her sexuality, but it also shows how high school really is.
Ophelia’s story isn’t perfect or linear. It’s filled with emotions of all sorts—anger, vulnerability, confusion, and it’s messy at its core, which makes it even more real. It really shows that one does not know everything about themselves, and that’s okay. It shows that we keep discovering something new about ourselves every day, which is a part of life.
Overall, Ophelia After All is an affectionate love letter to all the confused queer kids who are struggling to accept themselves or the abrupt changes around them.
Perfect for: readers who like realistic, tender, and heartfelt stories about self-discovery and love.
Representation: Queer biracial MC, Pakistani-American SC, biromantic asexual Korean-American SC, bisexual Afro-Puerto Rican SC, aromantic SC, pansexual Black SC.
Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
“You can’t tell whether people are gay by what they look like. And gay or straight aren’t the only two options.”
I don’t think I have enough praise for Heartstopper. It’s probably one of the best, if not the best, graphic novels ever. It lets queer people exist happily, which is surprisingly, rarely seen in media.
The story focuses on Charlie, an openly gay teen, and Nick, a popular rugby player, and how they fall in love and grow together. One thing that stood out to me was how Nick researched about his bisexual identity after realising that he may not be straight after all, and how Charlie supported him throughout the confusing process of understanding one’s sexuality. Nick clearly stating his identity as bisexual really hits hard because him coming to terms with who he really is meant that he had to deal with change in all aspects of life—and he was ready for it because he knew that it was the right decision to make
There is so much this series unpacks—friendships, queerness, toxic masculinity, mental health and recovery being some of it, and I don’t think I can do justice to everything it has to offer, so I highly recommend you check Heartstopper out for yourself!
Overall, Heartstopper is a series built on mutual trust, love, and support between all the wonderfully diverse characters.
Perfect for: readers who are in search of a series set in high school that will make them feel at home with its complex romantic and platonic dynamics.
TWs: Abusive relationship, Homophobia, Use of homophobic slurs, mentions of past bullying, discussions and scenes regarding eating disorders, brief mention of past self-harm, portrayal of OCD, psychiatric wards.
Representation: Gay MC, bisexual Li, Black transgender SC, Chinese SC, Black lesbian SC, Lesbian SC, Demisexual SC, SC of Arabic descent.
*The above TWs and representation are for all four volumes.
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Thank you so much Prutha, for visiting Misty Realms and having this discussion with us!! We love and appreciate you so much 💗 HAPPY PRIDE 🏳️🌈